With a week booked in our long-term Suburban, I made it a point to test its flex-fuel capabilities and ran it through two tanks of E85 that my local gas station conveniently had on tap.
During the first fill-up it was clear that being eco-friendly, at least on this day, was not going to be cheap as one gallon cost $2.59. Regular gasoline, on the other hand, was selling for $2.19 a gallon. After quashing the urge to save $0.40, I went with the corn. The tab for the tank came to $65.29—it would have cost just $55.24 for the same amount of regular.
I couldn’t detect any performance difference between running on normal fuel and E85; the engine ran as smoothly as ever. Pictures of happy Midwest farmers began dancing in my head as I ran through the tank.
Those pictures quickly vanished when I calculated the fuel mileage at the next fill-up. On E85, the Suburban averaged 11.02 mpg on mixed city and highway driving. That’s a far cry from the 18 mpg (a goodly number for a vehicle this size, mind you) we averaged with plain ol’ gasoline.
Of course, some of the sting was alleviated on our second tank of E85 as the price had plummeted $0.51 to $2.08 per gallon in the matter of four days, making it cheaper than regular gas. Paying less for less is not so bad; it’s the paying more for less that stinks.
(During our last maintenance stop the service shop addressed a recall on the E85 ECU software; hopefully that will help our mileage if we ever choose to try the corn again.)
AutoWeek Executive Editor Wes Raynal, whose gushing love of the Suburban is, quite frankly, starting to put a few of us on edge, claims he “needs” the Suburban more than the rest of us because his weekends are filled with hauling kids and their gear to a myriad of sporting activities (whatever you need to tell yourself, Raynal). He says he noticed the plummeting mileage, but the Chevy ran exactly as it does on unleaded.
On a non-E85 note, Raynal says he also found the beast to be superb in the snow. “I never bothered with 4wd,” he said, “and the thing drives the same seemingly no matter the conditions. It [almost] makes me hope for a real snow fall so I can try the 4wd.”
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Autoweek's life with E85